Ian Shapira from The Washington Post has written an article this week describing how many young teachers in Washington DC have Facebook accounts that are publicly accessible and are filled with content that represents them in inappropriate ways. Essentially, they are being young adults, but in a way that they don’t realize is in the public domain.
It’s almost like Googling someone: Log on to Facebook. Join the Washington, D.C., network. Search the Web site for your favorite school system. And then watch the public profiles of 20-something teachers unfurl like gift wrap on the screen, revealing a sense of humor that can be overtly sarcastic or unintentionally unprofessional — or both.
The article goes on to ask whether teachers should be judged on their out-of-school lives if it doesn’t affect their effectiveness with students:
Do the risque pages matter if teacher performance is not hindered and if students, parents and school officials don’t see them? At what point are these young teachers judged by the standards for public officials?
In states including Florida, Colorado, Tennessee and Massachusetts, teachers have been removed or suspended for MySpace postings, and some teachers unions have begun warning members about racy personal Web sites. But as Facebook, with 70 million members, and other social networking sites continue to grow, scrutiny will no doubt spread locally.
Whether they “should” or not is a big discussion point, but whether they “will” or not really isn’t.
In today’s society where political correctness reigns and public scrutiny and “moral” standards are held in front of everyone’s face, there is no doubt that Washington DC will follow the other states in removing teachers for social networking behavior.
Do adults need to be re-taught what privacy means since it’s meaning has changed with the coming of the internet?
Do they know how to manage their own Facebook accounts – never mind teach students how to protect theirs?
Like several other teachers interviewed, Webster said she thought her page could be seen only by people she accepted as “friends.” But like those of many teachers on Facebook, Webster’s profile was accessible by the more than 525,000 members of the Washington, D.C., network. Anyone can join any geographic network.
Are young teachers in training ready to defend their Facebook profile in an interview?
“I know for a fact that when a superintendent in Missouri was interviewing potential teachers last year, he would ask, ‘Do you have a Facebook or MySpace page?’ ” said Todd Fuller, a spokesman for the Missouri State Teachers Association, which is warning members to clean up their pages. “If the candidate said yes, then the superintendent would say, ‘I’ve got my computer up right now. Let’s take a look.’ “
Ultimately, the lessons of cyber-safety and responsibility that we teach our students needs to be shared with our teachers too. It should be included in their professional training (along with learning to use web 2.0 tools to enhance education of course).
All students, no matter what future profession they go into, also need to see the importance of knowing what they share and how they share online. And what better way to model this for a teacher than to share the very impact it has on our own lives and how we are perceived through what we and others share online.
Too many believe that the rules of public behavior are abandoned in Facebook. Here’s a terrific video which makes this very clear. Thanks to Brian Lockwood for the link to this on Twitter.